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Old Dominion

Republicans should be deeply concerned about Tuesday night’s results.

Contrary to what some think, Ed Gillespie had a pretty good night in terms of getting his votes out. Gillespie got more votes than Ed Cuccinelli in every county across the state of Virginia. Considering what appeared to be a hostile national environment, that was a real accomplishment. Moreover, Gillespie really did bring serious firepower in terms of getting votes out in Southwestern Virginia.

The below map shows the counties where Gillespie exceeded Cuccinelli’s 2013 vote totals by 30 percent or more.

Old Dominion

If you were a Republican strategist and your goal was to increase turnout in rural Virginia, a la Donald Trump in 2016, you had to be pretty pleased with what you were seeing. In Virginia’s 40 most rural counties, things looked pretty solid for Gillespie. Compare what had happened in 2013 to 2017.

2013 – Cuccinelli2013 – McAuliffe2017 – Gillespie2017 – NorthamNet Change

Cuccinelli lost to McAuliffe by 56,000 votes in a pretty close election. So Gillespie picking up 20,000 in such small counties probably offered some hope: he was already 35% of the way there. At the same time, Gillespie had held strong in suburban places like Loudoun County, increasing his vote by over 5,000 over Cuccinelli’s totals. If you were only looking at Gillespie’s raw vote totals, you might think he pulled off the inside straight and won outright.

Of course, Northam did something completely unexpected in Loudoun County. He blew away the previous off-year numbers, adding 25,000 votes.

2012 Presidential2013 Gubernatorial2014 Senate2016 Presidential2017 Gubernatorial
GOP75,292 (47.0%)40,464 (45.1%)45,500 (49.1%)69,949 (38.2%)46,278 (39.5%)
Democrat82,479 (51.5%)44,639 (49.9%)45,042 (48.9%)100,795 (55.1%)69,710 (59.4%)

Northam cancelled out the rural counties in Loudoun County alone, even though Gillespie got a pretty strong number of votes there.

Stated differently: it really wouldn’t shock me if Gillespie hit his raw vote target in Loudoun County, and in a lot of other places around the state. But it didn’t matter, because tons of suburban voters punished him. Below is a map of all the counties and cities in Virginia where Northam pulled in 30 percent more votes than McAuliffe in 2013.

Old Dominion

What are these? Almost all are well-educated, affluent suburbs and cities: not only the DC burbs, but also Richmond, Charlottesville, Blacksburg, and Virginia Beach and the surrounding environs. These are heavily populated, and in 2017, they voted Democratic. The raw vote totals are frankly intimidating from some of these places.

LOCALITYNortham (2017)McAuliffe (2013)Percent Increase
MANASSAS PARK CITY1954114271.10%
RADFORD CITY2161136458.43%
LOUDOUN COUNTY697104436957.11%
FAIRFAX COUNTY25491917874642.62%
ALBEMARLE COUNTY269431903941.51%
ARLINGTON COUNTY683154834641.30%
MONTGOMERY COUNTY150971068941.24%
STAFFORD COUNTY189871365739.03%
WAYNESBORO CITY2652191838.27%
ALEXANDRIA CITY408262958438.00%
JAMES CITY COUNTY155521134437.09%
PULASKI COUNTY3533258136.88%
RICHMOND CITY588004295736.88%
HANOVER COUNTY147391086235.69%
FALLS CHURCH CITY4770352335.40%
WINCHESTER CITY3561263135.35%
FAIRFAX CITY5374398734.79%
SALEM CITY3132232434.77%
VIRGINIA BEACH CITY663634935734.46%
POWHATAN COUNTY3109232733.61%
STAUNTON CITY4043305832.21%
FREDERICK COUNTY8360633931.88%
MANASSAS CITY5291401331.85%
HENRICO COUNTY700475313231.84%
FLOYD COUNTY1946148830.78%

The overall pattern is clear, when you compare 2013 and 2017: Gillespie outpaced Cuccinelli throughout much of the state, but it didn’t matter in the face of the suburban onslaught. The below map compares the 2013 and 2017 margin of victory; darker shades of color imply a bigger shift from 2013 to 2017. Gillespie did better than Cuccinelli all across rural Virginia, but it didn’t matter.

Old Dominion

Gillespie even outpaced his own 2014 Senate bid by raw vote totals across almost the entire state. He got fewer votes in only 7 counties (and cities outside of county rule): Fairfax County, Fairfax City, Arlington County, Alexandria City, Prince William County, Falls Church City, and Winchester City.

Two factors make this worse. First, Gillespie is really a pro. He’s a telegenic, successful former RNC Chair who knows how to run a statewide campaign. And he drowned.

There aren’t many more Ed Gillespie-caliber candidates out there. What you’re actually going to see in 2018 are a bunch of reluctant or weak Republican candidates, knowing that they’re proceeding into a slaughter, facing off against motivated Democratic candidates who have been waiting 10 years for this opportunity. Many vulnerable Republican incumbents or talented potential candidates will sit this one out, choosing to spend more time with their families, or enjoy a cushy six-figure lobbying gig in the swamp.

Second, the same pattern held in both the DC burbs and the non-DC burbs. If this had been limited to Northern Virginia, one might write it off as the backlash of bitter Beltway bandits. But the suburban vote boom occurred throughout the state.

With all this in mind, if the Democrats replicate this sort of turnout balloon in the suburbs in 2018, the wave will be enormous, and the Democrats will emerge in 2019 with a comfortable House majority.

To Republicans: if you don’t fix this, winter is coming.

Sources: The Virginia Secretary of State’s election website is one of the best in the country, so, kudos to the Old Dominion for that. All Virginia election results came from there. I scraped the unofficial results of the 2017 Senate election into a useful table with Python and BeautifulSoup. I use a version of these instructions to make choropleth maps.

Staff Writer

Dan Scotto lives and works in Oregon. He has a master's degree in history, with a focus on the history of disease and the history of technology.

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86 thoughts on “Old Dominion

  1. Great analysis; I live in VA and live in a Trump voting county… and could sense that people were willing and going to vote for Gillespie – so your numbers validate my “feelings.”

    That a weak candidate like Northam* could see such massive turn-out in an off-off-year election? Wow. I’m officially moving my chit onto the 2018 Republican Bloodbath bet.

    *Contra Dan, I don’t think Gillespie is all that good, either… most of the folks I spoke to see him as a transplant who doesn’t have much to do with Virginia… other than being here by virtue of his money laundering efforts in DC. That said, purely looking at Position Papers (which the Left usually does better) Gillespie was far more detailed and believable than Northam. Point is, it’s not like Northam came across as the “grown-up” more like grandpa… a slightly aggrieved Dr. Grandpa.


    • To support your “Gillespie isn’t that good” point, I read a piece this morning complaining that he had done no micro-targeting at all about issues the writer cared about, such as taxes, etc. His messaging was one note, to all voters. This surprised me a bit, honestly.

      If he ignored microtargeted social media, then he really didn’t learn the lesson of the Trump campaign.


  2. This is a more refreshing take than the Breitbart take that Gillespie lost because he wasn’t enough of Trumpista despite is fear-mongering about Latino gangs and culture war about non-existent Sanctuary Cities in Virginia. The Republican Party’s take on their losses in the 2017 local elections is that conservatism can’t fail, it can only be failed and to double down rather than admit they might be in trouble.

    I’m not sure if the Republican Party can do anything to reverse the waive though besides doubling down on cheating. They spent decades cultivating a particular set of voters and nearly everybody outside that particular group loathes the Republicans. They can’t reverse all of this in a year.


  3. Good analysis.

    I’ll repeat the number that bears repeating: Since 2008, the Democrats had lost 1000 seats on national and state levels. That averages out to 20 per state.

    Now, of course, gerrymandering was responsible for *SOME* of that but nowhere near *ALL* of that… and, of course, *SOME* of the remainder (but nowhere near *ALL* of the remainder) is due to mere regression to the mean from the dizzying heights of Obama’s 2008 win.

    The pendulum is bound to swing back. It’s time to regress to the mean once more.

    I don’t have confidence that either the Republicans or the Democrats will be able to tell “this is actually working!” from “regression to the mean” at this stage, though.

    (Heck, it could be something as simple as “things were going to regress to the mean in 2016 but the Democrats went out of their way to find a candidate who was even less appealing than John Freaking Kerry” and so, now, the regression to the mean will hit even harder.)


    • Without gerrymandering, the Republican Party would have been even more decimated in the House of Delegates election and the Democratic Party would have a majority rather than half the seats.


      • With different gerrymandering, the Democrats could have turned the state entirely blue (excepting one red district that ended up looking like what happens when you pour molten metal into cold water).

        We need to end gerrymandering, districts need to be contiguous, the only really goofy lines in a district either need to be a river or a state border, and, most importantly, you need to be able to look at a district and be able to guess where “the middle” of a district is.

        I mean, seriously: look at these districts. If I asked you “where’s the middle of this?” for any given one of them, would you be able to tell me?

        Anyway, yeah. If the Republicans hadn’t gerrymandered, they wouldn’t have won as many seats. Agreed. The Democrats, if they hold up the momentum they seem to have as of Tuesday, will be running the House the next time we draw districts. They’ll even be able to use computers to draw them.


        • Nice link to those fractal districts. That’s pretty nuts. And, I don’t know how you write a rule to shut this down. For one thing, geometry is harder than you think. For another, if we start using mathematical language, there are very few legislators that will understand it, not to mention voters. That’s not a good thing.

          We could try a rule like the following: In each district there must be a point from which a straight line from that point to any address within the district does not pass outside the district, though it may pass over uninhabited areas such as bodies of water. Most of the districts you linked, if not all, fail this test.

          But that rule might end up with problems, I don’t know. Some states do not have nice borders. They have little nooks and crannies. Also, it lets people play games with bodies of water such as Chesapeake Bay or Puget Sound.

          I mean, I’d like a test that addresses fairness rather than geometry. Because fairness is what we’re after. If a districting results in a state where one party can win 45 percent of the overall vote for an assembly, but win 55 percent of the seats, we can conclude that it isn’t especially fair. Once upon a time, those things might have happened by accident. But they don’t now.

          However, I think that any “fairness” test is going to be so steeped in mathematics that most will find it mysterious and thus suspicious.


          • I don’t understand why people think that districts ought to be contiguous geometric geographical units at all. That seems like a vestige from the past that’s lived past its usefulness. Just make sure each district is balanced between Ds and Rs, and whatever other demographics are required, and be done with it.


              • I was denying the necessity of representation to be geographically based. Just sort residents by some set of demographic criteria into arbitrary groups that we can call districts. You and your spouse may live in the same home, but have different districts and so different representatives.

                What is the substantive argument for having representation be local/regional?


                • joke: I was denying the necessity of representation to be geographically based

                  ‘demographic criteria’ is a human construct. Geographic location is an objective fact. That the two are linked and have several political correlations are true, but we should not skip a step and make ‘demographic criteria’ a legal construct.

                  Plus, material factors necessarily create a community of common interests shared by all the people that live near the same physical location.

                  Eta the argument that political representation need not be geography based can be used (and maybe is) to justify all the foreign workers in the Middle East (who are the majority of the population in many countries) having no say in how those countries are run.

                  “Well, they’re *here* but they don’t really count. They could always just vote back in their own country with their own kind”.


          • Well, Joke’s comment makes the point that there are a lot of different ways to do a district. His comment suggested “balanced between Ds and Rs”. My suggestion is to do it geographically. You know, have the borders be streets or rivers or state borders or something.

            No matter what you pick, you’re (effectively) picking a winner for the district unless you go out of your way to make it 50/50 (based on registrations? Demographics?) and then you can only make but so many 50/50 districts before you find yourself with the dregs of a 92/8 district for the last one.

            (And people will be yelling that you’re “watering down” the people who are in the 92 of that 92/8 by making so very many 50/50 districts.)

            It makes sense to me to do it geographically… I mean, if you’re behind a Rawlsian veil of ignorance, isn’t geographically the most neutral way to pull off “fairness”?

            If not, what do we use?


            • Eh, you group communities of interest and call it a day. You can run a map wide test (like the efficiency gap) to make sure the overall map is roughly fair (that is, if you get 55% of the vote you’ll get between 50 and 60% of the seats, not 40% or 75%).

              Balancing the districts 50/50 is pretty stupid. For one, you’d be effectively just swapping representatives (and parties) whenever the wind blew, which doesn’t not make for long-term thinking. Secondly, a 50/50 district is just that — 50/50, with no other obvious commonalities.

              We have a representative Democracy — it works best when, you know, we have representable districts — areas with something in common beyond “We drew the map that way”.

              You might end up with a few 80/20 districts and, but as long as the overall map is approximately fair (the aforementioned “you get about the same % of seats as your party got votes) it doesn’t matter, and the end result is a lot of districts whose representatives can actually represent the interests of their district, at least theoretically.


              • Well, maybe then you should make sure to create districts that maximize support for each party, so as not to waste Republican representation on Democrats, and vice versa. Maybe, even make sure that Republican districts have only Republicans, and vice versa. Then we’d have maximally representative districts. Would be great, right? Or not?

                I don’t think being representative of district is the only important thing.


                  • I would guess it has more to do with the part of what you said where instead of saying joke’s idea “wouldn’t work” or “isn’t effective” or what have you, you said it was stupid.

                    Use uncivil language, people assume you’re their antagonist.


                      • It does, it has to do with you saying his idea was stupid.

                        Like so:

                        You said his idea was stupid, he responded with a reductio ad absurdum of the opposite position to the one you called stupid. If you don’t see a connection between those two things, I’m not sure how else to explain it to you.

                        (I’m not saying it was a good/useful comment. I’m saying it was predictable, and thus does “have anything to do with” what you said, that the 50/50 idea was stupid, which was also not a particularly useful thing to say.)


                  • Balancing the districts 50/50 is pretty stupid… We have a representative Democracy — it works best when, you know, we have representable districts — areas with something in common beyond “We drew the map that way”.

                    I was responding to this, as it followed saying having districts be 50/50 between parties was “stupid”. Perhaps I misunderstood you, but it seemed to me that you were saying that it is best that the elected representative’s beliefs maximally align with those of their constituents. I took this to its extreme, as a way of saying that shouldn’t be the main principle in determining how to draw districts.


                    • That bit about “nothing in common” was the key bit, so to expand:

                      If you just drew a 50/50 map, the only thing they have in common is political ideology, and so you’d end up with this constant flip-flop of Reps who had nothing to actually represent but political ideology. He’d literally get nothing done and have nothing to do but rubber stamp his party.

                      If you represent, say, a chunk of Houston — those are all people living in Houston. In a specific area of Houston. They’ve got similar issues — maybe it’s potholes, or crime, or an area of decaying buildings that no one seems to want to clean up or knock down — or maybe it’s some odd regulation that’s strangling some up and coming business, or the lack of a decent post office anywhere near them, or…

                      You get the picture. Whatever political ideology they have, they live in the same place. If it’s flood prone, it floods Republicans and Democrats alike. If there’s no jobs, there’s no jobs for both.

                      That’s the whole point of “communities of interest”. Whatever their ideology, they’ll have a wide swathe of similar, local problems. They can — at least in theory! — elect someone to represent them and possibly do something about those problems. (Whether to the Federal or State legislature).


              • Yeah, in the Giles case, plaintiffs (the Dems) concede that population patterns in Wisconsin result in an efficiency gap of about 7% (blue voters self-pack into places like Madison and Milwaukee). Their objection is to the fact that the minimum gap in actual elections since the redistricting has always been at least 11%.

                The district court agreed the maps were unconstitutional, but didn’t endorse the hard 7% figure.


            • This is why I’m all for doing this algorithmically with geography being the overriding factor. Use as many existing boundaries as possible. Aim for basic shapes. Etc.

              The major test this fails is those related to Civil Rights and such, but (privilege alert!) I’d be willing to sacrifice that if the overall system were fairer. Plus my hunch is that much of that would sort itself out with just a better base system. Much of the need for the Civil Rights rules around districting was because of concerted efforts to undermine civil rights.


                • Well, for starters… simplicity. It also cuts down on folks “district shopping”. “I don’t like my rep or how the people in my district vote, so I’ll just force my way into that district over there.” That is harder when the mode of changing is moving your physical residence.

                  Plus many interests are local. Imagine there is an issue in my neighborhood but I’m voting in a district that includes people hundreds or thousands of miles away.


                  • That is a fair reply, though I cannot concede your first point. Certainly moving is difficult, but since district is determined by residency, it is possible. But if district is determined by a random drawing, the only recourse to changing district would be to ask the government for a re-assignment, e.g. through the courts, or some other process- and I don’t see any reason under such a system that the government or courts would permit such “shopping around”.


                    • So the government would just pull names (I assume based on voter registration?) and say, “Okay, you’re in District 9”? I’m trying to understand how this would work. That would prevent district shopping. But what of people who register late in the game? When does the drawing take place? How do people stay educated on a campaign when they may not know until late in the game which candidates they are actually choosing between?


            • @jaybird

              “If not, what do we use?”

              Counties. The lines won’t reflect population groups but they have been around a long time, and whatever politics that was around at conception is long past. And as this is an inherently political action, you need the ligitimacy this would provide to escape the blame game.

              Also, you would need to get rid of ALL other gerrymandering, such as Minority Majority districts. Just let the cards fall.


        • One of the District Court’s conclusions in the Gill v. Whitford Wisconsin gerrymander case the Supreme Court heard is that with modern processing power, software, and big data, it is straightforward to construct gerrymandered districts that satisfy all of the traditional requirements about contiguous, compact, etc. That court held that statistical testing is necessary.

          I submitted a short post on the case that’s sitting in review limbo somewhere…


          • Yep, which is one real issue with the “Everyone gerrymanders”. Until 2010, nobody could gerrymander like this.

            It’s like a guy strung-out on cocaine looking a guy sipping a coffee and saying “look, everyone takes stimulants”. There’s a big difference there.


            • The only reason why the Republicans gerrymandered more than the Democrats in 2010 (and since then) is because the Republicans won a whole lot many more state legislative races in a census year.

              In Maryland, where the Democrats stayed strong (and like the only place to do so) they gerrymandered the snot out of their US Congressional delegation, squeezing the GOP out of everywhere but the Eastern Shore (which can also go Dem in a wave, like it did in ’08). They also did this at the expense of one more majority minority district.


          • That’s why Gill is a pro-gerrymander case; the Wisconsin districts that would be created based upon its “wasted votes” theory would be tentactles reaching out from Madison and Milwaukee and salamanders along the Mississippi and Great Lakes.

            The poli-sci polygon posits that your map can value compactness, competiveness, outcomes (Gill test), minority represenatation, or incumbency, but it cannot perform all of them well.


    • We also have to look at Republicans simply making a more concerted effort to focus on local elections in a way that Dems just didn’t. That seems to be changing. I never remember an off-year election generating even a single FB post on my thread (which skews heavy liberal). Yet it was lit up on Tuesday. Hell, I voted!


        • That isn’t quite what I’m getting at though.

          Many Dems/liberals don’t vote in non-Presidential elections. Many moreso than GOPers/conservatives. There is lots of reasons for this but it is indeed a trend. And it leads to the GOP winning more of these elections than broader ideological demographics would indicate. And then, once in power, they can gerrymander or engage in other behaviors that further cement their dominance.

          We can debate whether this is right or wrong or whatever but what seems pretty evident is that it is true.

          But, at least from my vantage point, it seems like Dems/liberals are handling 2017 differently than they might have handled 2015 or 2014 or 2013.


  4. Thanks, Dan. That was really interesting. I used to live in James City County. It’s always fun to hear about the Old Dominion.


      • No, the Piedmont and Costal Plains are shifting Blue (or pinkening). The Piedmont and Coastal plains include NOVA, Charlottesville, Richmond, Norfolk and environs. And *those* are the regions that were the predominant Slaveholding regions Those regions, where they aren’t outright blue, are mostly pink with a smattering of rouge. Even in the counties that did better for Gillespie than Cuccinelli, the red isn’t deep red.

        If you are referring to the Mountain west and Shenandoah regions, then yes, they are trending rederrer… but those were the regions with the fewest number of large slave operations and the lowest number of slaves per-capita.

        Its hard to know from the comment whether you are unsure where the Piedmont is or where the slaves were, but if you meant to say, “Hey, the old Slave regions are Trending Blue. Huzzah for us.” Then it would at least be a truer comment, but still of dubious explanatory value.


        • I find your comment irritatingly confused. By the map I linked to (with the appropriate option selected), SW Virginia predominately shifted to blue since 2016, even in rural districts, but the Piedmont region between and south of Lynchburg and Richmond shifted predominately red.

          And by the map you yourself linked to, the region I indicated, laying south and between Lynchburg and Richmond are Piedmont! Charlotte County, Halifax County, Greensville County, Brunswick County, Lunenburg County, Nottoway County, and so on. Those counties shifted dramatically to the right since 2016, according to the map on the nytimes. And according to the 1860 census of slaves in Virginia (https://www.loc.gov/resource/g3881e.cw1046000/), that’s where the highest-density of slaves were. The Piedmont, of course, was full of plantation farming.

          You are correct, of course, that the the coastal regions also had slaves, and that they trended blue. But then, like Richmond in the Piedmont, which itself was once a hub of the slave trade, but which (mostly!) trended blue, the coastal regions are increasingly urban: http://www.virginiaplaces.org/population/popdensity.html In fact, it is the less dense areas of the coastal plain that trended red. Can we say: slave-holding x urban interaction effect on voting trend?

          Verify for yourself. No need to get personal.


  5. Good analysis. Democratic House of Delegate candidates seem to have one nearly every county HRC won in 2016. So this is finally the demographic change happening and/or it is a sharp acting on anti-Trump sentiment.

    There is increased polarization and this probably is ending a lot former split-ticket voting. Plus state legislatures are increasingly getting involved in social-cultural issues. I could see split ticket voting existing for low-key state legislative people so someone can be a hardcore Democratic voter on the national level but think their GOP state rep is alright and just does bread and butter issues. But when you have people calling themselves “Chief Homophobe” that is going to change.


    • The beautiful thing is that the transsexual woman, sorry I forget her name, ran on classic retail politics of fixing roads and didn’t mention identity politics or social justice at all. In other words, a stereotypical platform for a seat in the state legislature.


      • It does seem interesting, how policy-free the right side of our national conversation has become.

        The Trumpists especially seem fixated on cultural resentment which is irresolvable; as others have pointed out, you can compromise on tax rates, but not on identity.

        Saying “Vote for me and I will fix the damn potholes” has an almost quaint Norman Rockwell aspect to it.


        • Saying “Vote for me and I will fix the damn potholes” has an almost quaint Norman Rockwell aspect to it.

          Despite the tenor of national politics I think most local and state elections still revolve around these kinds of issues.


          • I am not so sure about this anymore. Maybe you are right but Roem did defeat a guy who boasted about being Chief Homophobe. National politics is local now.


  6. I’ve seen some arguing that this is actually a GOOD sign for Trump: an “establishment” GOPer who didn’t properly “embrace” Trump lost. Which isn’t the most unreasonable analysis. I guess. But the flip side is to look at a relatively sane and accomplished GOPer just lost Virginia… why should we think that bodes well for an insane GOPer?


    • The argument is a real Trumpian candidate would’ve activated even more of the silent Trump majority to get out and vote. Because evidently, just like the masses of socialists Jacobin things are just refusing to vote, there’s a mass of secret Trumpians who won’t vote for anybody unless they go full Trump on everything.


    • If this were good news for the Trump faction / be-as-loud-an-asshole-as-possible tactic, wouldn’t that suggest that Virginia’s self-described “homophobe in chief” GOP incumbent Bob Marshall should have handily beaten his openly transgender Dem challenger Danica Roem, whom he pointedly refused to refer to by her correct pronouns, or even address in debate, and who put out an ad attacking her for being trans? Instead Marshall lost 54% to 45%…


  7. To Republicans: if you don’t fix this, winter is coming.

    I feel I must disagree with this: Winter is pretty much coming regardless of what Republicans do.

    There already are Republicans who run from Trump. We just don’t hear about them because they lose their primaries.

    Meanwhile, the resulting pro-Trump Republicans are _utterly toxic_ to a large portion of the population, so much so they turn out in droves to vote against them. And this will just get worse as the drip-drip-drip of ‘problems’ in the administration shows up.

    There is nothing Republicans can do to fix this.

    As long as the people who control how their base thinks is not the party, but lunatic media personalities that want ratings and ad views above all else, and don’t give a damn about their party or their country or, even worse, are completely insane pro-facists, or, hell, Russians….Republicans are trapped.

    And Republicans can’t do anything to seize power back to themselves about that without outright civil war within their party. In fact, they’re sorta getting the civil war anyway.

    Please note that this is not something Democrats need to be happy about. The fact it happened to Republicans _first_ is no guarantee it won’t happen to Democrats. Democrats need to be very careful where they vest power.


      • It’s going to get more interesting than people think.

        Because, and this is an often overlooked fact, but apparently voters in Alabama are, uh, very dumb. On average.

        Republicans in Alabama have _repeatedly_ elected Roy Moore, who is not only an obvious lunatic who has twice been removed from office due to his lunatic behavior(1) that doesn’t understand how the government works, but also a conman who has basically run around collecting charitable donations for himself…and, now it turns out, possibly a sex offender.

        What I described above, where the right-wing media made the Republican base want extremist candidates…is not what happened here. Roy Moore is instead someone who has made a cult of personality around breaking laws by inserting religion into places that _no one_(2) thinks is appropriate. Yes, he is extremist, but so was Strange…and there’s a reason he won and Strange didn’t.

        His voters are so immune to reality they will just brush all this off, which means, if more evidence of these allegations start showing up, and the Republicans remove Moore from the ballot (Which they can do.), the base is going to go batshit.

        Anyone who thinks this is going to dampen the enthusiasm for him is mistaken.

        ….wait a second…a lunatic and idiot who doesn’t understand how the government works. A conman who operates a charitable organization solely for his own benefit. And possibly a sex offender. A person so completely unsuited for office that the Republican party might decide to step in and do something about, but probably won’t, especially since they need him for what they are doing, and if they do, they will face the wrath of their base…

        ….nope, I had some sort of comparison there, but got distracted by the phone and lost it. I will come to me.

        1) Fun fact: Roy Moore is such an obvious lunatic asshole that he himself has recounted how he slept on sandbags in the Vietnam war to keep the men under his command from fragging him.

        2) Believe it or not, there are a few areas of civil society that Americans think are sacred (set apart), and the courtroom is probably one of them. People might be okay with the ten commandments posted in a _courthouse_, they might even be willing to have them as decoration into the courtroom itself, under the theory it’s just a decoration…but almost no people in the entire country would, _in reality_, be okay with a judge attempting to lead prayers from the bench, anymore than they’d be okay with the judge interjecting political commentary or, frankly, any opinions at all, especially ones not relevant to the case.

        But those same people who wouldn’t be okay if polled on it, will go ape-shit stupid if the ACLU shows up and tries to stop that. Because they’re goddamn easily-lead morons who refuse to spend ten seconds thinking about an issue.(3)

        3) That reminds me to troll Facebook some about how Judge Roy Moore, when he was on the bench in Alabama, required jurors to pray to Allah before making a decision, and how he has repeatedly said that Allah is the only source of liberty, the law and the government. (For those who do not know, I troll Facebook by flipping religions around on people and events.)


          • Just for the record: There is literally no mention of the ages of Mary and Joseph in the Bible. Relative or absolute ages.

            And, no, we can’t just assume because ‘That’s how it worked back then’…because it’s not.

            Yes, women married young…and they married young men. A woman who was 14 might indeed be getting married, in fact a woman who was 12 could be getting married!(1) But they’d be getting married to someone just a few years older, not 35. (The age of Roy Moore at the time.) In fact, tradition said that men should marry by 18, and there was a problem if they didn’t by 20!

            I’m sure, on average, men were older, but it was probably an average of two or three years, not 20.

            Now, of course, there were later marriages. A wife dies in childbirth, a man might get a new, young bride, so perhaps a 14-year-old woman could indeed end up married to a 35-year-old man…but that is not anything to do with the story of Joseph and Mary.

            1) It’s actually one year less horrible than it sounds. Technically, 12 is when a woman could be _betrothed_, and she would still live with her father for ten months to a year, and then get ‘married’ and move in with her new husband. And, yes, 13 is probably too young for that, but it’s slightly better than 12.


            • David,
              Jews got married early. Given the circumstances and proclivities, I’m not going to say that 12 is too early to get married.

              Teenagers still, as is usual teenage behavior, screwed around on everything in sight.


        • FWIW, Democrats recruited the best possible candidate that they could for Alabama and he seemed to be holding his own as well as he could. I am very cautiously optimistic that this could tip the scales but then again….


  8. Republicans should be deeply concerned about Tuesday night’s results.

    I agreed when I first read this (excellent) piece. But compared to “We are now the party that excuses child molestation”, losing a few seats is not that big a deal.


  9. Before linky Friday is over, a few that I found pertinent to the thred.
    The always readable Elizabeth Bruenig writing about sexual ethics;
    via John Medaille, Nathan Schneider, Neoliberalism and the Sexual Left.

    Bruenig proposes an ethics based on whether we believe sex is in the interest of the other person, while Schneider compares unrestricted sexual liberation to the consumer choice model of neoliberalism.

    I think the Schneider article is a bit weak in that I really don’t believe there is an identifiable Left or Right, Liberal or Conservative sexuality.

    I notice that we’ve seen liberal men and conservative men; religious men and sexual men; educated men and illiterate men; men who bristle with patriarchal attitude, and men who epitomize sensitivity; all be exposed as participating in ugly predatory behavior.

    Where I think Schneider and Bruenig overlap though, is in the notion of rooting our sexuality in solidarity and subordinating our own desires to a shared communal norm.


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